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Help » The Responsibility of All RPers

Do players have a responsibility to make sure that everyone else is having fun, too?

We asked this question of our community, and 24 people turned up to debate. The results were fascinating and deeply edifying. Below is a summary of some of the most interesting consensus' that were reached.

If you are interested in seeing the road that was taken to get there, I encourage you to read the full chat log.

So let's do it! Do players have a responsibility to make sure that everyone else is having fun, too?

The answer was always YES. Some players went so far as to turn the question on its head, saying that it's not that players are responsible for one another's fun: making other people happy and interested is actually the object of the game and the only way to "win".

RP definitely cannot be fully explored to its fullest potential until you get to know the players behind the characters you play with, for sure. Knowing what people enjoy and figuring out how you might be able to deliver it to them is a huge part of encouraging fun.- Wizard
In order to enjoy your RP, you want people to like you and enjoy your characters and their stories! And the best way to do that is to be nice to them and to show genuine interest in what they have to offer.
- Earendill

But there were also a number of caveats proposed. For many, that responsibility has reasonable limits. For example, most felt that if they were to be responsible for their fellow players, their fellow players should accord them the same courtesy, and repeated shows of disrespect indicated a deeper problem that would need a direct, OOC discussion to resolve.

In fact, the need for strong OOC relationships in a community came up over and over throughout the two hour discussion. No matter how far the conversation wandered, it always came back around to OOC understanding, maturity and friendship being what makes a game possible and worthwhile.

I think that right now the biggest thing that is making RP good for me is forgiveness. Last night I screwed up big time. The group I play with didn't hesitate forgive me. I barely had time to say I was sorry before there were offers for roleplay again. Even if I made them mad, they still want to play with me, to be my friend. I can honestly say that nowhere else have I had a chance to meet people who accept that things get hard. I don't have to feel guilty for mistakes and I think that is far more important than any roleplay I could ever join. Even if it was the most amazing story-line with the best characters ever and I'd still not be as happy because I wouldn't have the ability to make mistakes. Without the forgiveness I don't know where I'd be. I think that being in a positive environment here fosters a lot of the OOC friendships that make it easier to play. Even though we end up in cliched positions, we're happy for it while it lasts. When we have problems, we know that we can be friends again. We don't need to keep fighting or mentioning a mistake.- TheLily

More than that, it seemed that maintaining good OOC dialogue was what allowed people to know what being "responsible" toward one another actually looked like. How can we help other people have fun if we don't know what they like and what crushes their spirit for a game? Cups of tea vary widely!

Part of the joy and responsibility of having fun in an RP is allowing your character to not only dish out the blows but also to receive them. I think the really great RPers strive for conflict between characters--not between players. So in some aspects, it's important to get to know the RPer before you get to know the character--though obviously that doesn't have to happen to have a great RP.- PenGryphon2007

Who is responsible for what was also somewhat flexible. New players were just considered to have the responsibility to be open to learning, improving and discovering what being respectful even looks like in a RP community (after all, it can be hard to grasp the idea that you can do some pretty darn nasty things In Character, and still be doing no offense Out Of Character.)

[The job of a new player is] To grow as better writers while still enjoying themselves. We've all got a bit of ego in ourselves, and we won't always realize that we're not perfect and we need to learn and grow from more experienced Roleplayers.

But then you dig down keep, find that humility that will let you admit "Okay, I may be able to actually learn something here", and do it.- Copper_Dragon

And experienced players weren't off the hook for constantly trying to improve their game (defined as generating more fun, not as winning) and being open to suggestions, either.

However, experienced players acquired additional responsibilities, including:
  • Welcoming new players and helping them learn the ropes -- even if this was just by pointing new players to someone who is better at - or has more energy for - teaching than themselves
  • Maturely dealing with drama, such as by stepping in as a neutral third party and helping two quarreling friends to see both sides and come to a resolution
  • Being mindful of upholding the IC continuity
  • Playing responsibly

It wasn't that experienced players needed to be super heroes, always giving of themselves and never looking out for their own fun. It was about striking a healthy balance, and giving back now and again.

I don't think this responsibility should ever be enforced. However, I think it should be encouraged. If this is kept in mind from time to time, while not exhausting ourselves, then the community will stay strong.- Mellute

A community that isn't able to do this is one that's on life support, as it can only ever lose members, never gain them.

When a community is so tight knit it can't bring in new members, it's just signed it's own death sentence.- Spy

The more we dug into the topic, the more essential player responsibility proved itself to be. Conversation frequently turned toward the "consent rule", a practice of requiring a player's consent before anything can be done to their character, including harm or death, and how most people use it to protect themselves from other people behaving irresponsibly in RP. A little bit of polite tension arose as to whether the consent rule could itself encourage irresponsibility, by encouraging people to refuse the consequences of their own fictional actions and making the game less real, fair and fulfulling for the other players.

For me, one of the most striking moments of the entire chat was when I posed this question: If this were an alternate universe where you completely trusted that everyone RPed in a responsible manner, would you feel okay letting go of the consent rule? and everyone simultaneously agreed they would give it up entirely, even those who had previously been its most vocal supporters.
Mellute: I would let the rule fly out the window then.

Earendill: I already feel okay in letting it go in this universe, depending on the community!

Tailbone: Absolutely. In fact, I do!

XinonHyena: I would, when I RP with people I trust I usually don't mind it.

Copper_Dragon: I despise hypotheticals! Boo! Hiiisssss rawr!

... but yes, in all seriousness, I probably would let go of the consent rule!

Lorvilran: I don't trust that. If EVERYONE in the rp world could be trusted then yes.

Nero: I play in many games without a consent rule. It is only required when there are not other rules by which the characters' capabilities are defined.

That's why we have select settings and screening processes, to keep out unfair players that would run in and start shooting people up - in such environments I surrender that sort of magical protection. However, while I love my characters and do not WANT them to die, will absolutely wiggle around it if I can, awful things -do- happen to people every day and death is a tragic occurrence to shock other characters and their players. That's a part of life and huge plot development. It's not to be taken lightly, but I believe avoiding it entirely when awful things happen, offering a form of immortality bestowed by the 'hand of god' as it were in this case, is unfair to the narrative process. I understand it, but don't think it's healthy.- Tailbone

Kim: So it isn't the death that bothers people, it's the possibility of a meaningless death?

Copper_Dragon: YES, KIM

XinonHyena: Exactly Kim

Rubix: Yes Kim, meaningless death would be the thing that bothers me. Death happens, characters fall, but doing it with no purpose? That bugs me.

Copper_Dragon: A meaningless death just because the player wants to make it or add to a kill count.

Earendill: Exactly Kim! No one wants their character to be equivalent to that nameless person on the background shouting a Wilhelm scream and dying with no direct connection to the plot.

Tailbone: Agreed!

Nuclear_Dingoz: yes i have killed plenty of characters (of my own). I wouldn't want to invest watching a tv show and then a death of a character happen for no reason at all.

XinonHyena: What Earendil said

Bunneh: Heh, this discussion is actually making me want to look for rp on RPR instead of just the current place I rp. xD

The big takeaway for me from this discussion is that part of the definition of being a responsible role player is putting effort into helping other people's narratives have meaningful conclusions, on the small and large scale -- whether or not the plot includes death.

A few years ago, I heard someone use the phrase, Positive Metagaming. This is the practice of moderating yourself in situations where you feel like you might run roughshod over someone else's fun. You do want to be careful here, because it does not refer to "Not killing someone's character", because that can be fun too. It only refers to extreme situations where you might destroy a player's fun, and could avoid it by augmenting your character's choices slightly. This is worth considering, so long as it doesn't completely break your character out of its personality, paradigm etc.- Nero

For those of you that don't know this phrase, "metagaming" is the practice of using out of character knowledge to augment the behaviors of your character. It is almost always used selfishly, in order to "win" or beat the other characters. An example might be learning in an OOC discussion that a pleasant invitation for tea from your very best friend in the world is actually a trap, and then angrily refusing that invitation IC even though in the story itself, there's been no indication that anything is out of the ordinary. Here, Nero is proposing that there's actually a time and place for using OOC knowledge ICly, but that it's to help other people have more fun, not to beat them.

If you want to read more of this discussion on how to be responsible for other people's fun, I encourage you to read the full chat log: chat log.